Useful Tools

Obviously, there will be the usual toolbox full of spanners, hammers, screwdrivers etc., but some specialist tools will come in very handy. Some really great tools come from the popular auction websites, but I have found the best bargains, especially the older, quality and more traditional tools come from the local car boot sale. People clearing the garage, simply don’t know what they have or what they are worth. When people post online they tend to have more of a clue to price.

Don’t get carried away with ‘digital’ as the old fashioned tools are often much faster to use and don’t have unusual sized, flat batteries when you need them most. I figure if a tool has lasted 40 years with little sign of wear I should get a few years out of it – even if I abuse it. ‘Digital’ takes a lot more looking after.

There were tools that it tried; like a borrowed laser digital tape measure; that did work, but due to the amount of skill and delicacy needed to use, were simply not as effective as ‘old-fashioned’ alternatives. In the case of the measure, I found a good quality conventional measure and a piece of knotted cotton much easier to use; especially when trying to mirror a pair of dimensions. Laser Spirit levels were also arguably good, but I found a conventional spirit level / inclinometer and a long length of study straight steel much more effective.

Sometimes, the old ways, tools and methods are by far the best!

However, a new toy does keep me inspired.

Vernier Calipers

Some quite respectable verniers are available for reasonable money. I bought a brand new 300mm/12″ digital model for less than £35.

image: 300mm Vernier Calipers


For manufacturing the chassis I found this practically essential. It saved time and gave great piece of mind.

image: Inclinometer

I bought this one for £2.50, from the market. If nothing else it showed when things moved. With better eyes than mine, it was actually pretty accurate!

image: Cheap Angle Finder

Digital Spirit Level

Get yourself some traditional spirit levels in an assortment of lengths. I bought 4 new rugged versions in a pack for £35, but since then I kick myself as it seems there are dozens at every car boot sale for next to nothing.

Framing / Roofers Square

These are relatively cheap pieces of kit, I bought a pair in the market for £8. If you see them cheap, get one! They’ll come in very handy in the chassis building stage. I’ve got my eye out for some huge ones.

image: Framing Square

The modern laser versions are also very cool and handy. Especially for long distances.

Digital Square

Digital Angle Finders

I found them so useful, I bought 2 pair of theses, 300mm and 600mm! Sometimes one would be better than the other in a particular application but it would be impossible to choose between the two. At times it can become an obsession to get every angle ‘decimal place’ perfect.

image: Digital Angle Finder

To save a few pennies though, there plenty of jobs that can be done perfectly with a ‘combination square’.

image: Combination Square

Bulls-eye Spirit Level

Not all the tools I used were expensive. I bought a handful of these in the £1 store. As a quick check they provide piece of mind.

image: Bullseye level

Check out the modern version! It’s USB chargeable, has 0.01° resolution, gyroscopic sensing and gravity monitors which come in very handy indeed! Place the unit against on one surface, zero it, then move it to a second and it will tell you the difference in X, Y & Z directions plus rotation to 1/100th of a degree. Getting the digital bubble exactly in the centre to read 0.00 in both axis can take some work! – trust me!
I paid under £35 and I thoroughly recommend reading the rather brief but interesting manual.

Digital Spirit Level

Digital Spirit Level

Get yourself a digital spirit level. You can get them with built in lasers accurate to 0.01 degrees very cheaply. Be a little cautious of the really cheap ones. Whenever buying a level place it on a flat surface and check the bubble or the readout. Rotate it 180 degrees and make sure it reads exactly the same. You’ll be surprised how many are junk.

Projecting a perfectly level laser line is often incredibly handy and can save hours or even days of work and re-work. I used mine both on the chassis and to get the bodywork ‘right’. There are dozens of them available for under £40, but try to find one the projects 2 laser lines, horizontally and vertically in a + shape.

Magnetic Clamps

For the welding phase these can be a time saving device or simply a spare pair of hands. I went for both the adjustable and multi-angle models. They are very handy for smaller items but for larger items I went for mole/vise grips. The clamps couldn’t not be used under tension or to support much weight.

image: Magnetic Clamps

Parts Washer

Not wanting to take parts into the house to clean them, I bought a powered parts washer. For smaller items it proved quite effective. I’d put the parts under the tap before work and inspect the cleaned item when I got home. As cleaning fluid, I experimented with paraffin and with a washing soda/water/vinegar mix. Paraffin worked more quickly, but left the parts with an oily film (good for rust protection – bad for paint). The washing soda blend left items squeaky clean albeit much slower (warm water helped kick-start the process). Some items benefited from being regularly turned. The fluid could be re-used if the sludge from the bottom was dredged out. I don’t think some of the sludge I found would do the pump much good!

image: Parts Washer

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